I have reported on the growing costs of running publicly funded transportation systems (buses, light rail, AMTRAK). Public bus systems rarely pay for themselves. Rather they are heavily subsidized by federal, state and local governments. For example, in Sarasota County, FL government runs two bus services and both are monopolies. SCAT is run by the County and the other run by Sarasota County School Board. Both are paid for by county property taxpayers.
NPR’s Shiva Koohi portrays in two simple charts how Americans who have jobs get to work.
Since 1960 American workers get to work primarily, and in ever increasing numbers, via private transportation. Use of public transportation has declined by over half since 1960, while use of private transportation has increased by 20% (see below charts). The use of bikes, taxis and walking by workers have all declined since 1960 and 1980. The number of those working at home has doubled since 1980 but remains a small number of total workers. Telecommuting has not yet caught on.
Koohi reports, “More than ever, Americans are getting to work by driving alone. As the graph above shows, the share of Americans driving to work rose sharply in the second half of the 20th century, as the nation became more suburban. The rate has been flat for the past few decades — but during that time the percentage of people who carpool fell (even as carpool lanes proliferated).”
Today, only 5 percent of workers take public transportation, down from 11 percent in 1960; only 4 percent walk to work, down from 7 percent in 1960.
One surprising detail in the numbers: The share of workers who work at home is actually lower today than it was 50 years ago (4 percent today versus 7 percent in 1960). A 1998 Census report pointed to “the steep decline in the number of family farmers and the growing tendency of professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, to leave their home and join group practices resulted in a loss each decade of the number of at-home workers.” The share of people working at home has been rising for the past few decades, as telecommuting has become more popular, but the rise hasn’t been nearly enough to make up for the earlier decline.
Richard Florida noted patterns in Rampell’s map. Florida reported:
Income and Economic Output: The richer the state, the less likely people were to drive alone. Driving alone was negatively correlated with state income levels (-.46) and output per capita (-.41).
Class and Human Capital: States with higher percentages of college graduates (-.47) and the creative class (-.43) were less likely to have people driving alone. Driving alone was much more likely in states with large working class concentrations (.62).
Professional and Creative Jobs: Driving alone was less likely in states with high concentrations of virtually every type of professional, knowledge-based and creative jobs. But it was least likely in states with large concentrations of artists, designers, and entertainers (-.63), architects and engineers (-.61), scientists (-.56 ), and lawyers (-.55).